How to Get a 5 on the AP Computer Science Exam!
MEK’s Advanced Placement Course & Exam Prep classes are opening in January 2024. We’re offering small group virtual and in-person classes and private tutoring designed to give students the strategies and skills to ace their challenging AP classes and earn a 5 on the AP exam in May.
This Spring, we are offering AP Computer Science taught by expert instructor Mr. Minjae Park.
As a Math & Science Teacher, Mr. Park works primarily with the Tutoring department. He is a student favorite, with his effective and engaging teaching strategies. He is also our Systems Engineer, making sure that all software and hardware is working properly and up to date so teachers can teach without a hitch.
Read on to find out Mr. Park’s top 3 tips for scoring a 5 on the AP Computer Science exams in May!
Tip #1: Practice breaking down problems into individual steps.
What is a core skill that students should focus on to improve their performance?
Contrary to popular belief, students do not need a high understanding of math for AP Computer Science classes. They will definitely help them, but it is not a core requirement in understanding the concepts of computer science.
If anything, student’s ability to compartmentalize the tasks for a given problem, the ability to break down what individual steps are required to achieve the final result is the most important. Like following a tutorial, thinking in terms of “step 1, step 2, step 3” would help students in reading code, and also in designing more complex programs.
Tip #2: The IDEs you use can help if you are struggling with following code.
Many teachers and online resources ask students to “think like a computer” when they read and follow through a piece of code. And there’s more to it than simply reading the code line by line.
If there are variables involved, make sure to keep track of the value of that variable, updating it if the code modifies it. If there’s loops/conditionals/function calls in the code, make sure to follow them correctly.
The IDEs that students use can help greatly with a process called “debugging”. In the IDE, simply flag a line of code with a “breakpoint” and debug the code file, and the IDE will provide keep track of all variables and functions in the code automatically, making it easier for students to see what’s exactly happening with the program.
Tip #3: Check out Past Exam Questions from AP Central to prepare for the free response questions.
The free response section for AP Computer Science A will ask students to hand-write code to complete the program or the given problem. Because of this, students should familiarize themselves with the syntax of Java, as well as refer to the Java Quick Reference to see the list of common methods used.
One awesome resource that students should definitely check out is the Past Exam Questions from AP Central. This is the definitive official resource that students can refer to that gives the most detailed breakdown of each criteria for scoring, sample responses on the questions, and the feedback for each of the responses, clearly showing how the free response section is being scored. To best utilize this resource, students should try the past exam questions on their own, and then read through the scoring guidelines and note any parts for deduction, as that would be some areas that might need improvements.
The free response section for AP Computer Science Principles will ask students to write in detail regarding their Performance Task Program. If students have not already done so, they should create and maintain a document listing initial ideation processes, list of features and goals for the program, challenges in implementation, and if possible, the outcome and result of the program. What CollegeBoard is looking for in these responses is a story: what led to the development of the program, and how it came to be, and what it accomplished.
Although AP courses are tough and may seem intimidating at first, a solid study plan and good study habits can help students get high grades and ace the exams.
Many AP teachers focus on only the course material, leaving students underprepared for the actual 2-3 hour exam. At MEK, we take a two-pronged approach to AP Prep. Through providing students with both lectures by experienced teachers and practice exams, students gain a solid understanding of the material and learn test-taking skills to maintain their performance under time pressure.
Click here to learn more about our AP Course offerings for Spring 2024!
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Or if you have questions, contact us! We look forward to hearing from you.